Some more food for thought - gender @ UNFCCC

With my first input in this discussion, I’d like to focus on gender in the UNFCCC process. In the fundamental documents, the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, gender has been absent, and it took until 2001 to raise the issue and adopt a COP decision on gender balance in UNFCCC bodies, and until 2012 to adopt a more comprehensive decision on gender which involves also actions to promote gender-sensitive policies, including gender as an agenda item at COPs. In 2014, a work programme on gender was adopted to ”Advance gender balance, promote gender sensitivity in developing and implementing climate policy, and achieve gender-responsive climate policy in all relevant activities under the Convention”. Moreover, several in-sessional workshops on gender have been held.

The relevance of gender is widely acknowledged in issues related to vulnerability and adaptation, to some degree in finance, technology and capacity building, but not in mitigation, except from REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). These limitations are also reflected in the Paris Agreement, which lacks of full consideration of gender and human rights issues. Some Parties, including European governments, were in favor of stronger language on these issues, but haven’t insisted on keeping it in the text and rather traded them off for other issues.

From my point of view, the main constraints in the UNFCCC debate on gender are:
- Often gender is understood as pursuing only gender balance, neglecting the need to integrate gender into the content
- It is not fully acknowledged that gender is relevant for mitigation of climate change, as well, in terms of carbon footprints, needs, preferences, capacities etc.
- Gender is often seen as an issue that is relevant only for developing countries.
- Definitions of the terms “gender-sensitive”, “gender-responsive” and “gender-transformative” in relation to climate policy are still not clear, in particular what they might mean in practice.

Therefore, my main question to you is: How can researchers contribute to fill these gaps?


Rachel Palmén's picture

Hi there,

I'm Rachel Palmén and form part of the GenPORT team. I'm here to see how the discussion works given that we will be organising some online discussions on various topics - covering different aspects of gender and science.

I'll try and be attentive to what seems to work well and what works not so well!

thanks very much and I hope we have a fruitful discussion!

irissan's picture

It might be a bit naive, but I really lack a gender definition here...
Are we talking about gender addressing only sexual binaries characters? Also taking gender as variable?
Or there is room for a feminist standpoint or even a post-structuralist/post-modern/post-feminist definition on gender? "...meaning of 'woman' is not universal but varies with ... contexts..." (Alvesson and Due Billing 1997, p38).

If any research targeting women is done, these various positions on gender would direct the results in different ways. For instance, a "gender as variable" approach might focus the research very much on a comparison of the participation and experience of women directly affected with those of men. Taking a "feminist standpoint" perspective might attempt to consider factors impacting on the women affected (and perhaps those missed) by their cultural environment's views on gender. A more post-structuralist approach might focus very much on the individual experiences of women involved and aim to 'give them a voice' rather than attempt to generalize their experience to other women...

It is just a thought, and I am (as commented on my intro) quite new to the subject, but it will be important for me.

cheveigne's picture

Hi Irissan
You ask a very good question ! We certainly need to clarify the definitions of the issues we work on as part of their problematization.
I also think there is an issue of practical efficiency. One of the previous posts said that we only have sex disaggregated data (not gender disaggregated). I tend to be already happy when we have that and even more so when it is taken into account. In another thread, we discussed the difficulty of getting natural and social sciences to work together. I am tempted to take a pragmatic stance, saying that we need to be able to work with "gender as variable" issues (without of course saying that the others need attention too), simply to get these issues on the agenda and move forwards.
All the best,

irissan's picture

Thanks @cheveigne
Then a further question on this thread,
How it is best to integrate gender (understood as variable) on a solid scientific research? I really think hard on this. When doing research on theoretical chemistry (as I did myself) If I think on possibilities for making my research proposal gender-responsive or integrate gender on its content. I only can think of ways for promoting equality in the positions I'd apply for.
I mean help on child care for example, or flexibility on working hours. Do this kind of measures apply to what it is understood as gender-sensitive?

uroehr's picture

I don't know if we will be able to come to common definitions here - even 'feminist' is perceived quite differently by (women/feminist/scientific) different groups.
In my perspective (and I tried to explain that in my introductury remarks here the gender approach is not (only) addressing women or men or transgender or whatever. It is an approach which nessecarily needs to address the underlying (androcentric) power structures in order to strengthen equality and justice. I am always quite concerned if collegues (including myself, sometimes/too often) argue with women are more vulnerable to climate change, or men emit more CO2 ... This is one of the traps we often step in when arguing for gender in the climate change debates. At least - and that's what I meant before - we have to explain WHY women are more vulnerable, WHY men eat more meat... Thus need to explain the root causes, the gender identities, the gendered roles and responsibilities... and sometimes also the biological differences.
Anyhow, it is still a huge challenge.

Gotelind Alber's picture

thanks a lot for these inputs. you are completely right, and I must admit, that there is no clear definition of gender in the political debate under the UNFCCC. Personally, I have a feminist standpoint (but I am a physicist and might miss some of the more subtle details ...), but in the UNFCCC debate, you can find people with an essentialist definition, and some who believe gender is about helping poor women, etc.
I found that if you are involved in the political debate, you have to simplify and generalise things in order to be heard, but the question is to what extent.
From my perspective, the most important issues are gender roles and gender power relations, and I believe that the latter are part of the root causes of climate change. This is is why I raised the question of the terms gender-sensitive, -responsive, and -transformative, as these terms are used in the political discussion whether you just take gender into account, and more or less accept that e.g. women are in charge of care work and consequently give them efficient cook stoves, or if you take power relations into account and work towards transformation.

One question for me in this context is whether research is primarily meant to be fed into the political debate, or if you strive for knowledge and insights as such.

Gotelind Alber's picture

all research done on gender & climate change is social or political science research, rather than natural sciences. I have been asked during conferences if i'd be able to see gender aspects in climatic research as such, and of course it's difficult to say. But you can, for instance, look at the methods that are used. For climate science which is very much relying on models, it might be worth looking at the underlying assumptions of these models.
Another issue for natural science and technoligy are the research priorities. E.g. do the main efforts go into technological end-of-pipe solutions (or pseudo-solutions) such as geo-engeneering, or do they aim at appropriate and safe technologies and take the interaction between societies / societal change and technlogies into account?

arroyo_lidia's picture

I think you are tackling a key dimension regarding the introduction of gender perspective into research projects. I would like to share a blog post about the definition of gender written by Jeff Hearn.

As Gotelind Alber has raised, I also consider that intersection between gender relations and power relations are crucial in climate change. I recommend you the following resources that are already available on GenPORT which include this perspective in their analysis. If you know more, you are very wellcome to upload them. 




irissan's picture

The example naming the research priorities is a gold one, as so it is the modeling one.
I will tend to think that an inclusive model, would be more gender-related that an exclusive one. In terms of assumptions made on it, as so the priority. I am happy to read it, so I would use it into the gender-part of the research applications.
Nevertheless, I find it urgent to combine natural sciences and gender research, I think under the "neutral" appearance of those there is a crucial gender gap to be named and undertaken.

Elaine Enarson's picture

Hi all- I think on this point of definitions, we must tread lightly and avoid being drawn into fruitless efforts to find consensus. For my part, I want to emphasize the intersectionality of gender relations -- making me less interested in the sex variable and more interested in relational issues of power and in cross-cutting power relations of genders, sexualities, class, ethnicity and on. But as a community of activist scholars (taking that as a given for the moment), a 'big tent' approach is both more realistic and more useful in the end, as dialogue among all who take sex, gender, and sexuality seriously, though in many different ways, seems to me the critical turning point. Or perhaps there are lines to be drawn so that the scarce gender dollar in research is best used? Hmmm...

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4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: joerg
14:00 – 17:00 CETPart II of our e-discussion focuses on concrete (disciplinary specific) challenges for incorporating a gender perspective into research dealing with climate action, the environment, resource efficiency and raw materials. In addition, practical examples from the field will give guidance and illustrate the potential benefits in terms of research excellence. What are good...
Comments: 48


4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: Gotelind Alber
With my first input in this discussion, I’d like to focus on gender in the UNFCCC process. In the fundamental documents, the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, gender has been absent, and it took until 2001 to raise the issue and adopt a COP decision on gender balance in UNFCCC bodies, and until 2012 to adopt a more comprehensive decision on gender which involves also actions to promote gender-...
Comments: 10
4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: uroehr
Starting point Most knowledge on gender and climate change is available for developing countries (addressing the situation in developing countries). This is due to the situation that climate change generally impacts poor countries more than rich ones because of their geographical situation, and because of limited opportunities to adapt to climate change. Inside these countries, like in most...
Comments: 5
4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: uroehr
I am a civil engineer and sociologist by background, and have been working on gender issues in planning, Local Agenda 21, environment, and especially in energy and climate policy for about 30 years. I was committed to mainstream gender into climate policy on local and national levels and have been involved in gendering the UNFCCC process since the very beginning. I am co-founder of the global...
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4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: Amber Fletcher
Hello Everyone, My name is Amber Fletcher, and I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Canada. I study the social dimensions of climate change (both mitigation and adaptation) in agricultural contexts, with a focus on gender. In particular, I study how women in agriculture are affected by—and respond to—climate extremes such as...
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4 years 5 months ago
Posted by: joerg
14:00 – 17:00 CETDuring part I of our e-Discussion, experts are invited to give an overview of the field including recent developments such as for example the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Definitions of “gender” and “sex” are not identical across the manifold actors spanning different languages, cultures and certainly scientific disciplines. Neither are...
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